Refused Classification, Now a Marketing Strategy?
It seems that the Australian Classification Board doesn’t mind serving me up with blog fodder every couple weeks so I can harp on about how the mature Australian gaming community needs a R18+ rating. Whilst I won’t re-iterate the point I’ve made time and time again about how having different standards for one single type of media is just silly it does seem that there might be another side to this whole R18+ debacle that no one has considered. It’s an exceedingly good way to get press for your otherwise unknown game:
The Classification Board has stated that “drug use related to incentives or rewards” is the reason why gangster-themed MMO Crimecraft has been refused classification in Australia.According to the Board’s report obtained by Kotaku this afternoon, Crimecraft “contains the option to manufacture, trade and self-administer legal “medicines” and illegal “boosts”… Boosts are sometimes referred to as “drugs” both in the game and in the Applicant’s submissions to the Board.”
One type of boost is called Anabolics, which the Board notes “is named after a class of proscribed drugs and that the Applicant describes boosts as “like real-life steroids”. In addition, the names of boosts mimic the chemical and colloquial names of proscribed drugs.”
I’d never heard of this game until it got refused classification from the ACB and a quick Internet rundown on them gives only 5 articles on Kotaku and an extremely sparse Wikipedia article. This is a woeful amount of press for what is supposed to be a MMORPG even one with such niche appeal as this. What makes this interesting is that the refusal for classification is scaringly similar to the one that hit Fallout 3 almost 18 months ago and one they subsequently got around without too much hassle. So why would you submit a game with the potential to hit the classification tripwire when you know the workaround? You can see why I’m smelling a PR stunt here.
Granted this is a bit of a stretch and it is entirely possible that they thought there was no issue with the names they used. Still when Fallout had to change the name of morphine to Med-X you can be guaranteed that using any real world names for drugs that are used in a game is a sure fire way to rile up the ACB. I’m sure that they’re going to resubmit with the modifications required but the fact remains, they managed to generate quite a bit of hype for their game which would’ve probably gone unnoticed in Australia otherwise. It is a rather niche game so they were probably relying on the open beta to generate most of the buzz for them (which coincidentally was not open and only available to the US and Canada) and you’d have to do a bit of digging to find any original reports of people actually playing the game.
Making and marketing a game, especially in a genre dominated by Blizzard, is no easy feat and I can easily see the developers agreeing to such a stunt in the hopes it would generate a bit more buzz. There’s no real ethical issues to speak of here but I still can’t help but feel that employing such a tactic is a bit, well cheap. Simple things like a fully fleshed out Wikipedia article, a YouTube channel and a corporate Twitter account do wonders for promoting a game that would otherwise slip under the radar. CrimeWars doesn’t appear to have any of these so its far more likely that this was a genuine submission rather than an attempt at free PR.
After all this though I’m still not interested in the game but I’ve got a feeling I’m not really in their demographic. Still I have to wonder just what their demographic is with such a game because traditionally people who are playing games like that (GTA, Saints Row) aren’t the MMO or PC game type. Its still quite possible that they’ll find their niche but when giants like WAR and AOC managed to fall flat in the MMO market I must say, I have my doubts.
Still, they gave me something to write about and that’s well….something I guess